sports gazette

MIDWEEK MATTERS: Can the FA Cup still thrill?

Published: 1 Feb 2017

In a new regular feature, Sports Gazette's writers will be waging a war of words over the hot sporting topics of the week.

Yes 

Guy Giles, Editor

I don’t think anyone can look at the FA Cup fifth round draw this year and say that this, the oldest competition in world football, does not still thrill.

Sutton United and Lincoln City have both reached the last-16, the first time in history that two non-league sides have reached this stage of proceedings.

Both teams beat Championship high-flyers in the fourth round, and the two sides are now preparing for another step up the football ladder as they face Premier League opposition.

Lincoln travel to Burnley while Sutton welcome Arsenal to Gander Green Lane. Burnley lie 79 places above Lincoln on the league ladder, with Arsenal a whopping 105 above Sutton.

Where else in the world would you see a squad worth hundreds of millions of pounds play at a stadium that cost a lot less to build?

Think about the people that matter the most: the fans.

Lincoln supporters will travel to Turf Moor in force and make their presence felt for miles around, ready for one of the greatest days of their footballing lives.

Sutton fans will do likewise, welcoming a giant of English football to their 5,000-capacity stadium. Only the FA Cup could ever give football fans thrills like that, and it will never cease to do so.

Yes, you may look at the weak teams fielded by top Premier League clubs and think this is a dying competition, but this is merely indicative of modern football.

If a club is competing for the Premier League, possibly alongside the Champions League, obviously these will take priority.

Both competitions are much more prestigious within the modern game, not to mention much more lucrative.

But this does not mean at all that the FA Cup does not still thrill.

Crystal Palace’s run to the final last year shows that even among Premier League sides this is a competition that can provide light among the darkness for fans, offering a chance for glory found nowhere else on the planet.

Think about the people that matter the most: the fans.

No

Warren Muggleton, Editor

Whilst the FA Cup is regarded as an important pillar in the English footballing community, I worry if the competition will continue to thrill­.

The FA Cup carries huge tradition but now serves little purpose other than sending the Premier League youngsters out for a game or two. 

In this year’s FA Cup fourth round, the top six clubs in the Premier League made 51 changes between them, all in a tournament where the final rewards are shared out mostly between top Premier League clubs.

Since the 2010/11 season, there have been 12 semi-finals; only four clubs below Premier League level have featured- three Championship clubs and only one League One club.

Combine this with the ever-growing gap in revenue between Premier League clubs and everyone else, then you must ask; can a lower team ever win the FA Cup, the competition famous for bringing English football together?

BBC’s advertising campaign last year revolved around the phrase ‘anything can happen’: but how truthful is this?

Let’s focus on round three, when the top 44 clubs in the country join in, and another phrase - ‘giant-killing’- is thrown about.

From 2010/11 to this year, only 14.3% of 280 matches, including replays, have seen a lower-ranked team win.

That’s 40 matches, and from this only five were won by a non-league club. Whilst ‘giant-killings’ are sweet because of their rarity, the constant overuse of the phrase oversells the tournament.

And doesn’t this also re-emphasise the Premier League clubs' lack of interest in the FA Cup? Look at Liverpool’s team against Wolves.

Jose Mourinho said yesterday that Manchester United’s fixture list is ‘nonsense’. Is he placing the FA Cup below the Premier League and other tournaments?

Well the trophy they won last year didn’t make it onto United’s pre-season photograph, so maybe!

The FA describe the tournament as “the most famous domestic cup competition in the world”- let’s just hope the ‘giant-killings’ don’t disappear nor the ‘money disease’ get worse and maybe I’ll agree.

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